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I’m Justin Wahlers, a Senior from Apex, North Carolina, majoring in Psychology and Communication Studies and minoring in Neuroscience at UNC. After a short tenure serving as the Associate Director at a domestic violence relief nonprofit, I sought to learn how maladaptive thoughts and behaviors develop in people, and how to overcome them. I wanted to gain a better understanding of the psychological tools that empower people. Intrigued by human behavior, I decided to channel my passion into meaningful psychology research. Now, I serve in two research labs at the UNC Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, studying emotion regulation under Dr. Kristen Lindquist and clinical interventions for substance use disorder under Dr. Stacey Daughters. Altogether, my work focuses on understanding how emotion- and self-regulation mechanisms influence our thoughts and behaviors.

This past semester, I sought to gain work experience complementary to my research interests, leading me to the Karen M. Gil Internship program. This spring, I have the opportunity to work as an organizational consultant intern with Horizon Performance, a consulting firm that works with high-level military organizations, corporate entities, and athletics departments to create productive, winning cultures that produce results. I work with Alex Stewart, an organizational consultant at Horizon Performance and a doctoral student at the NC State I-O Psychology program.

Since joining Horizon Performance, I have joined along side the team on a project with a new corporate client. For this client, we aim to analyze job descriptions from major positions in the company and develop metrics that define what success means for the individual and the company. Since joining one month ago, I am using client-provided resources to build a competence model for leadership training materials. Upon completion of this task, we plan to create and distribute a training needs survey with metrics to evaluate effective leadership characteristics in managers and team members. Later on, I look forward to developing leadership training course materials.

In my short experience so far, I am learning the ropes about organizational consulting and the practical application of psychological concepts in a business context. Through my experiences on a new project, I actively learn how psychology is used to build models of leadership and performance for organizational hiring and training. Altogether, my work at Horizon takes a practical spin on the self-regulation and emotion research I conduct in academia. The experience allows me to build relationships and professional networks through this inspiring group of people and to learn more about how psychology can help private business improve internal functions. Thank you to the Karen M. Gil Internship program for this opportunity to broaden my horizons and gain valuable insights at the intersection between psychology and business!

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